With 2015 well and truly upon us, I asked the Leapfrogg team to reflect upon what we have learnt over the last 12 months in the world digital marketing and premium retail and how we expect this year’s developments to evolve.
Here’s what they came up with:
2015 will be the year of “Customer Experience”
Last year, customer experience still felt very much like a theory that everyone preached and understood that they needed to start doing. However, retailers were challenged to do anything about it as they felt there was so much to be done just to get to the point of best practice. Only then did they feel they were ready to start tweaking the experience they give to certain customers.
I believe that 2015 will be the year that customer experience really does get put at the heart of digital marketing teams and retailers work out how to do that and build a focus on customer insight and data into every job role within their marketing teams and wider across the business. We will start to see roles such as ‘head of customer experience’ appear and more and job descriptions will include the need to understand customer data.
Customer insight is key
If pretty much any year from 2008 onwards was labelled ‘the year of mobile’, 2014 was very much about ‘customer experience’ with marketers at the turn of the year proclaiming it to be the most exciting opportunity.
However, customer experience is nothing new, there is just far greater attention being paid to it as a discipline in its own right because, in a consumer-led, multi-device world, a seamless and consistent experience is so difficult to deliver.
The ability to decide where to invest for maximum return, minimal waste and happy customers will separate the good from the great this year. This is where customer insight is key. It shouldn’t only be shaping the big decisions but the ‘smaller’ ones too. Even at the most granular of levels, every decision should begin and end with the customer.
I hope to see marketers take a step back and see the bigger picture in 2015. If 2014 was the year customer experience became as much a part of the vocabulary as SEO or social media, 2015 is the year when retailers need to really live and breathe it. It’s the year when every decision is made on the basis of what customers actually want rather than what the retailer thinks they want.
Focus on your wider strategy
In 2014 it felt like brands and retailers took further steps to root digital execution in their in-house teams. It’s hugely important that internal departments are all embracing and ingraining digital in their day-to-day marketing efforts as this will provide a long-term foundation for digital success.
This year, online brands and retailers really do need to focus on building their brands by engaging with their customers and providing unique experiences. Although different channels all have their part to play, it’s important that brands focus on the wider strategy to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards overall business objectives. Better segmentation and personalisation are likely to get more advanced in 2015.
Video will dominate further
This year, video is set to become even more important and brands not creating their own video content are going to lose out to competitors that are.
Video doesn’t just give you the chance to create compelling, easy-to-consume content about your products and services, it also performs exceptionally well on social media. According to figures released in September 2014, around a billion videos are viewed on Facebook every day. Consumers’ thirst for quality video content is only set to increase in 2015 and the social networks know it, that’s why they’re going to be investing in and pushing their own video hosting capabilities. Get on the bandwagon early.”
Social media strategies need to be engagement-focused AND include paid media
The biggest disruptions to the social media sphere in 2014 were the various updates to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm which suppressed organic reach for brand Pages. As a result, our clients across the board saw their organic reach (along with resulting website traffic and conversions) taking a dip. With the roll out of further updates beginning this month which will suppress “promotional content” from Pages, brands are going to need to divide their Facebook strategy into two distinct areas in order to see success on the platform:
• Paid promotional
• Organic engagement
It’s not just Facebook that’s making changes like this in the name of improving the user experience. Pinterest recently introduced its ‘Smart Feed’ which means that pins are no longer shown in chronological order – they’re assessed on the basis of quality and relevance to the user. There’s also been speculation around whether Twitter is going to abandon its chronological timeline and serve users tweets based on relevance instead. If you want to see success on any social media platform in 2015, your strategy is going to need to be wholly engagement-focused AND include an element of paid media.
Content strategies need to be altruistic, not self-indulgent.
My final prediction for 2015 is that brands that don’t focus on delivering what their customers want via their social media and content are going to fall behind. In-depth customer insight (we’re not talking ACORN profiles here) should be the starting point for any content strategy and maintaining genuine engagement with consumers is going to be how brands see success. Content marketing is going to be entirely about answering problems and adding value.
Backlink relevancy will still be a big win in terms of search quality
In 2014, Google found a way to ‘encourage’ webmasters to help them start clearing the web through Penguin and its regular updates – something they have been attempting to battle unsuccessfully for a number of years. Over the last year, in fear of action from Google, website owners have been trawling through historic ‘spammy’ links, requesting removal of them and supplying lists of websites in the form of disavow files, shopping these offending sites directly to Google.
Last year saw many predictions and outcries of links being dead. However they still remain a core factor in the way Google ranks search results and they have got much better at identifying manipulated links thanks to the webs clean up.
Google are yet to find a better approach. They even tested removing links internally but the resulting quality was much worse. Matt Cutts stated “It turns out backlinks, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results”. I would expect it to stay that way for some time.
Create content that has a purpose, rather than content for content’s sake.
2014 showed us that Google continues to place more and more emphasis on high quality content, rewarding businesses and brands who cater for online searches with content that is relevant and useful.
In 2015, I’m looking forward to seeing the trend develop further – helping our own clients position themselves as trusted sources of highly relevant, highly shareable content that attracts engagement from the right visitor demographic. I am also hoping 2015 is the year more brands recognise that adding to the growing amount of ‘content noise’ on social media (adopting a quantity vs. quality approach) is never the way forward. May 2015 be the year of content that has a purpose, rather than content for content’s sake.
In 2015 the importance of free, speedy and flexible delivery and return options will continue to grow as ecommerce customers will start to expect this to be the norm. Gone will be the days of waiting weeks for deliveries and even months for your refunds. To compete, online retailers will need to provide an optimised online shopping experience and offer great deals on delivery and a fast turnaround time on all orders.
I think 2015 will also see personal and effective customer service becoming crucial in such a competitive retail landscape. We’ve seen many examples of retailers such as ASOS who may be pushing the boundaries in terms of innovation and expansion but they’ve come under recent criticism for their automated customer service processes. The fact that that 80% of UK consumers are less likely to buy again after one bad experience will mean that the retailers who can’t provide this will certainly fall behind
I think we will be seeing plenty to advances to online retail in 2015 but hopefully every single one will boil down to improving the customer experience.
So, what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts on our predictions so please feel free to leave a comment below.